Mersin’s citrus festival like a carnival
WILCO VAN HERPEN
Some 50,000 pieces of orange, mandarin, lemon and grapefruit are being used to make all the beautiful trailers and statues.Sometimes I watch video clips on YouTube where people do stupid things. They jump on a chair or table and fall down. It’s all very hilarious, but you should be careful with what you laugh at.
Last weekend I was in the southern province of Mersin. There was the annual Narenciye (citrus) festival, a new tradition that started five years ago. The father off the festival is Abdullah Özdemir who came up to organize a carnival-like citrus fruit festival in Mersin. During the five years this festival has been organized, a lot has changed. Every year they improve themselves and the Narenciye festival slowly became a kind of crossover between Carnival in Rio de Janeiro and the Bulbs Parade in the Netherlands.
Sixty-five workers work three weeks in a row to make this festival possible. Some 50,000 pieces of orange, mandarin, lemon and grapefruit are being used to make all the beautiful trailers and statues. Every year during the second week of November, hundreds of thousands of people visit this festival and at the end of the two-day-long festival, the people are allowed to take the fruit with home them. Walking around, I noticed something very interesting. This was a real cosmopolitan and colorful festival.
The visitors of the festival walk side by side with all the different participants from 32 different countries. Most of the performers come from the Balkans, Middle Asia and Peru, and they all wear their own colorful national traditional clothing. I see bright blue jackets combined with shiny white trousers, the dancers of a folk dance group from Hungary wearing their traditional cloth. All of them together give the festival a very positive and happy feeling. It was here at this festival that I felt that the all the people had forgotten about their problems.
‘I fell down’
It was so busy and the area was so big that I wanted to take a picture for a higher point. At the seaside there was a wall and from there I would be able to take a beautiful overview picture of this festival. While jumping on the wall, for a split second, a YouTube video I recently watched came to my mind. It was of someone who wanted to jump over a tree but miscalculated the distance and fell down.
It was a hilarious clip. My thought was not yet finished, I jumped and, of course, miscalculated the distance. With an audible bang, I fell down on the concrete wall and some huge rocks. My camera flew to the right, my objective to the left. I lay flat on the wall and could not get up. Angry at myself (I was so very angry that I even did not say one swear word!) I managed to get back on my feet. While I limped away, I promised myself never to laugh at those videos again.
What was interesting is that I did not see posters showing the pop concerts of some famous Turkish pop stars. Generally in Turkey, during such kinds of festivals, the organizers of the festival try to get as many famous Turkish pop stars as possible. This is how festivals become great successes. The media will be there and write about the concert and, with a little luck, they get a little piece of extra news out of it as well. But everybody forgets about that reason of that festival. Therefore, here in Mersin, you will not see one single Turkish (pop) concert. Citrus it is and citrus is what you get.
On a 1.5 kilometer-long boulevard
The whole Narenciye festival takes place at a 1.5-kilometer-long stretch of the boulevard of Mersin. About 15 or 20 years ago, there was still a sea at the place where I was walking, but then they started the project to create a seven-kilometer-long boulevard. Now, don’t get me wrong, but I have seen many places in Turkey that have a boulevard, but quite some of them are really depressive pieces of pavement or sand next to the road. They are dirty, badly maintained and all kinds of weeds are growing, which makes an enjoyable walk along the sea or sunbathing impossible. Here in Mersin they have a beautiful boulevard. You see beautiful palm trees, green grass and sculptures. Abstract, modern and classic sculptures give this green and clean boulevard an international feeling. This could be France or Italy.
That evening, together with some friends, I had my dinner in Yakamoz restaurant. It is a typical meyhane, a place where people come to drink rakı or beer in combination with many different kinds of meze (Turkish appetizers). It was in 1906 that they built this area, the Old Agora market. You can compare Yakamoz with the restaurants of Nevizade in Istanbul. The only difference is that it is not as busy as Nevizade and it is much cheaper! It turned out to become a typical Turkish rakı evening. The combination of good food and rakı made everybody talkative and it did not take long before we ended up talking about politics. It was last Saturday evening that my friends solved all of the problems in Turkey; how confronting the next morning would be for them.